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The 2008 Collector’s Weekend painting workshop piece is named Shiny Brite Santa for the ornaments which he is holding. Shiny Brite is the name of the first company in America to produce blown glass ornaments. Prior to the 1940’s Germany was the source of imported mouth blown Christmas ornaments.
Imported as early as the end of the first World War, but made readily available to the general public when F. W. Woolworth purchased them for his famous chain of stores. Import offices involved in the German ornament trade were located in New York but one businessman, Max Eckhardt, could foresee the import decline due to hostilities and the potential of another war. In the late 1930’s he and a representative of Woolworths had approached the Corning glass company and shown them the essentially guaranteed market for this product.
By 1940 Corning was making 300,000 ornaments a day. The German skilled glass blower could in comparison, make at best 600 daily. Max Eckhardt’s American company Shiny Brite was Corning’s largest customer. One of the original machines which produced these ornaments now resides at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. They were initially lacquered by machine on the outside and decorated by hand. Early pieces were also silvered on the inside to ensure they would remain shiny bright longer. With the outbreak of World War II, material shortages caused the decoration of clear balls with simple pastel stripes. In addition, assorted shapes were introduced without using scarce war materials. With the continuation of the war metal caps disappeared, replaced by cardboard hangers.
The VFA chalkware has given us a way to continue to convey the history of Christmas. The Shiny Brite Santa illustrates Americans embracing ornaments in their celebration of Christmas.